Thursday, July 29, 2021

Desecration and Destruction


I am sitting here and writing words today because writing words is what I do. But I feel wholly inadequate to address what I need to write about. I would rather go back to bed, pull the covers up, and retreat from the deep sense of darkness that I feel. Darkness that comes from evil. Evil that is right here in Howard County.

Yesterday we learned of a break-in at the Harriet Tubman School. Whoever committed this crime did so with the intention of defacing and destroying precious pieces of the history of students and teachers who attended that school. This is more than casual erasure. It is intentional desecration.

The stories of Black people have never been valued in this country and even now there is a move nationwide to suppress them. And right here in our community we see the results of someone who finds those stories to be so dangerous that they must be destroyed. 

I attended a story-telling event that was a part of the Columbia 50th anniversary year and heard Bessie Bordenave speak about her experiences at the Harriet Tubman School. Her description of the teachers who were more than teachers - -  also loving mentors and role models - -  for students entrusted to their care moved me. The Harriet Tubman School was a place where students were sent because they were excluded solely because of their race.The teachers they met there made it their mission to let them know their value and potential.

Someone wants those stories to be destroyed before they can be shared with the greater community. It’s as simple as that. 

This action contains within it a kind of cruelty that I cannot wrap my brain around. The destruction of precious pieces of ephemera that cannot be replaced. The desecration of a space whose mission has been so long in coming to fruition is heartless. Time is of the essence for former students of the school. They will not be with us forever. To push back the realization of their dreams is truly cruel. 

There’s no other word for it.

Normally I’m good at words. Today I feel at a loss. To all who have worked to make the Harriet Tubman School a center for history and learning, I honor you. And I grieve with you. 

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